I am thinking about Shaun today.
This is not unusual. He is my lover, so I think about him often, and he was my first, so I will probably think about him recurrently through the rest of my life. But today I am thinking about him and want to write about him.
I met him under the rafters of my favorite pub. A friend of mine was having a small party and he was the only face I didn’t know. Slim, dark-haired, intelligent — I decided quickly that he would do. I was looking to make a conquest, having spent a previous hour crying over the withering of a promising affair. I slid in next to him and put on brilliance, vivacity, boldness. Somewhat to my surprise, he responded. He loved good beer and British sci-fi, his intelligence showed itself to be subtle and grounded in good judgement. By the end of the evening, he was lightly stroking my leg under the table. I am always startled into immobility by a blunt advance, but I did find the momentum to shift my leg an inch or two closer to him.
He lost no time in getting my number, in finding me on facebook, in reading my blog (the other one, the one that uses my real name.) He made it clear very quickly that he was polyamorous, that he had a girlfriend. I was intrigued. We communicated regularly throughout that week, and both expected to get together very soon. After three days, when the memory of his fingers on my thighs still caused them to squeeze together hopefully, I knew I would sleep with him.
Then his girlfriend left him, and the entire landscape changed. The bright, energetic, slightly goofy man I’d met was scattered, shattered, confused, and depressed. He’d be there, on the surface, and we’d be enjoying ourselves, and then with very little warning he would slide into raw, open despair. He had moved a thousand miles to be with her; she had left him dramatically and without explanation; he was broken and bewildered. I was in the right place at the right time to catch him as he fell, and strangely his confused and painful circumstances made him exactly the right person for me, at that moment, just as I was exactly the right person for him.
I got used to the rhythm of his misery, of the way, after we had sex, he would roll to the side and be consumed by grief once the pleasure had subsided. I learned what to expect from a long silence; I learned the exact way his face breaks when he is trying not to cry. I never discovered whether sitting silently beside him, stroking his hair, and kissing his forehead was the best way to respond to his low moments: I thought sometimes that a more bracing approach, a distracting liveliness, might be more helpful, but I couldn’t manage it.
We talked periodically of the two of us, of his fears, of my expectations. For a time, my expectations didn’t reach beyond honesty. I was prepared any any moment for him to leave the state, to forswear lovers, to date seven others, to suddenly hear from her and take her back. When I went to see him, I didn’t go for love; I went for companionship, for sex, and for the satisfaction I get from soothing the wounded.
I wanted to write about the changes that have taken place since, but I realized I would have to shift tenses. All the above, about meeting him and knowing him through the first weeks after his breakup, is in the past. The landscape has changed again, but the change is gradual and still going on. So I’ll leave that for another day.